Renewed

Read Isaiah 40:27-31

There are some weeks when Friday arrives and a person can be mentally and/or physically exhausted. This is the reason that T.G.I.F. (thank goodness it’s Friday) came into existence. In some situations, this level of exhaustion  can be brought on in a single day. Whether it is one day or a series of days, this type of exhaustion can lead to irritability, mistakes, depression, or all the above. At this point we have to search outside ourselves for the strength to move forward.

The Hebrew people clearly were feeling this way when Isaiah was writing the words for today. A sense of exhaustion and abandonment prevail in the thoughts of the people. They feel God is not even paying attention to their plight. In response, Isaiah says that God never faces exhaustion and is very aware of what is happening. It is God who is the source of revitalization and strength when human power fails. The weariness and stumbling of people of all ages can be overcome by the Lord. The energy provided by God will cause those who believe to soar and go forward unfailingly.

Next time you are drained, feeling as though you are unable to take one more step forward, turn  to the Lord. Take some time to spend in the presence of your inexhaustible God. The Lord is very aware of what you are experiencing. The One who loves you desires to restore you. You will find renewal which will allow you to soar once again.

Sheep Astray

Read Isaiah 53:1-6

Have you ever tried to corral sheep? I had a friend who had a small flock of sheep. One day I assisted him in attempting to move the sheep from a small pasture into a building so they would be ready for the shearers. The task was a monumental one. Each time we would get a majority of the sheep headed in the correct direction, one or two of them would break away to go their own direction. When you tried to bring those back to the flock, the flock would scatter because your attention was in another direction. Quickly I understood the value of one or two sheep dogs.

The writer of Isaiah clearly understood the nature of sheep. He uses the imagery of scattering sheep to describe the state of our being. We have gone astray and the Servant has paid the price for our going our own way. This passage is part of a whole section usually entitled the Suffering Servant portion of Scripture. Many biblical interpreters link what is described here with the experience of Jesus Christ.

The realization that out of great love forus, Jesus was willing to endure suffering and even death to ensure we are brought back to God’s flock is humbling. Our desire to go our own way is a strong one. We frequently convince ourselves that we know what is best for us. Instead of being guided by the Spirit into the safety of the Lord’s way, we break out in a different direction, endangering ourselves and potentially others. Jesus brings us back through his suffering and obedience to God. He shows us the way home.

God GPS

Read Acts 8:26-35

There are times when our journey does not always make sense. In this age of GPS-guided travel, we can gain a fake sense of certainty in regards to our route. Having recently moved to a new community, GPS has been an important aid in my navigation. However, I have already discovered that Google Maps does not always provide the most ideal route for arriving at a destination. More than once I have said to Google (like anyone is actually listening), “Why did you take me this way instead of…”

Philip had been called by God to go on a journey. Like many calling stories in the Bible, God does not give a lot of details about this travel plan. While Philip is traveling, God’s GPS announces a route redirect. Philip takes the road he is directed to which leads him to encounter an Ethiopian eunuch. This encounter provides Philip with an opportunity to connect the Hebrew prophet Isaiah’s words to Jesus Christ. He is able to share the good news about Christ with the eunuch and the eunuch begins a journey of relationship with Jesus.

Sometimes we may be given a call by the Lord to go on a journey. We are asked to go with limited details at best. During our travels we may be redirected and that direction may, or may not, make sense to us. The key is to trust our God GPS. God knows the correct route and what we will encounter along the way. There may be an opportunity which is missed if we do not follow. Our Lord is more accurate in giving us direction than our trusty Google Maps. Take the journey. You could be surprised what the Lord has planned along the way.

Unexplainable God

Read Isaiah 55:8-9

Have you ever noticed how frequently there are times in life when we witness or experience something which does not make sense? Occasionally, new insights and understandings will help make sense of these things but not always. A change of perspective might also benefit us as we attempt to unravel the mystery. The reality is that we will never be able to explain everything which we experience in our lives. This is especially true when it comes to God.

The prophet Isaiah relays a message from God to the Israelites and to us. As part of the message, the Lord makes it clear that we will never fully  understand all of God’s thoughts and/or actions because they are not akin to human thoughts and actions. There is a mystery pertaining to God because God is spiritual and not human.

How often do we attempt to require God to adhere to human ways? We attempt to explain what the Lord thinks, does and chooses by human understanding. Our attempts to conform God’s reactions and viewpoints to our actions and viewpoints are comical when we examine them. God is much bigger than any one of us, or even all of us combined. The Lord’s insight, knowledge, abilities, and power eclipses any human level possible. Humans are finite while God is infinite. This is a good reality. 

Our goal should be to live in and accept the mystery of God. Knowing the Lord is about relationship, not being able to explain. A god who can be explained away is not a god but instead is an overly powerful human. We need a God who is beyond our explanations so we can trust God to do what we cannot.

What To Bring

Read Isaiah 61:1-3

We are in the midst of the holiday season. Our calendars fill up with parties and family gatherings. A question which arises in preparation for such events is, “What should we bring?” The answer depends on the purpose of the gathering, the number of people in attendance, and the needs of the host. Determining what one is to bring is important to prevent social embarrassment and/or missing elements for the celebration.

The passages from the Book of Isaiah are the most frequently referenced insights in regard to the promised Messiah. Today’s reading is one of these passages. It is viewed as one description of the role of the coming Messiah. The list of actions attributed to the Messiah seem to describe Jesus’s ministry. The list can be understood as telling us what the Lord is going to bring into our lives.

As we examine our lives, we can see when the Lord has fulfilled this list for us. These promises provide for us reassurance and hope. Whatever we may be experiencing, we hear this proclamation of good news. Jesus has brought exactly what we need to the party of life.

Answering A Call

Read Isaiah 6:1-8

There are specific events in a person’s life which will always be vivid in the individual’s memory. Those times when asked, “Where were you when…,” you are able to recall the minutiae surrounding the named event. For many of us, September 11, 2001 is one of those dates. When presented with the question, “Where were you when you were told that a plane had crashed into the side of the World Trade Center?,” the array of details come flooding back into a person’s mind. As we face the 20th anniversary of such a horrible day, the image presented on the television of first responders rushing into Tower One and then Tower Two come to mind. Women and men who rush into a place so many were trying to flee from is an act of sacrificial service. Many of those who responded would never be seen alive again as the world watched the two towers collapse.

The passage from Isaiah is the telling of the call of the prophet Isaiah. A spiritual vision is recounted in these verses. Isaiah sees the spiritual beings of the seraphim praising and serving the Lord. Being surrounded by such divine imagery and realizing being in the presence of the Lord, Isaiah confronts his unworthiness. But the Lord sends a seraphim to communicate that the Lord has made Isaiah worthy. Then the call is made for someone to go to be a worker in the world on the Lord’s behalf. Isaiah accepts the call by saying, “Here am I. Send me.”

This vision is one which can be easily applied to countless men and women who have accepted the call into a variety of forms of service. The list includes medical workers, educators, clergy, mission workers, social services providers, military personnel, and of course, first responders like the ones who rushed to the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. The list also includes the passengers on Flight 93 who attempted to regain control of the plane from hijackers heading to Washington, D.C. for another target.

On September 11, 2001 a call was given for someone to respond to the horrific attack on human lives. For some who responded that day, they had answered a previous call which led them to be firefighters, police officers, transit authority workers, and emergency medical technicians. On this particular day, the call was renewed and extended to ordinary citizens. The response was clear and unquestioned, “Here am I. Send me.”

Let us never forget those women and men who responded on that day. Let us seek to honor them by responding as willingly when the call is presented to us. May our admiration and gratitude for those who answered the call bind us once again in service to one another.

Help

Read Isaiah 41:8-13

Life can be difficult and filled with challenges. There are times when one can easily feel like everyone and everything is against you. The thought of another day may invoke fear. A person may sense enemies around each turn. You feel beaten up and without hope.

The people of Israel were feeling this way during their time of exile. They had been removed from their homeland. It seemed they had been attacked from every side. God appeared to have abandoned them. Into this situation, God speaks to the people through the prophet Isaiah. Part of that message is what we have read for today. In this section, God reminds the Israelites that they have been chosen. The people are assured that God has not rejected them. Then God communicates hope and tells them not to fear. The hope is found in the promise that God will provide the strength which they need to endure the difficulties. God will deal with the enemies and those who stand in opposition to them. The promise is that God will be their help.

The promise which Isaiah shares on God’s behalf was not only for the Israelites of that day but for all of God’s children. This is the promise which belongs to each of us. When we are feeling overwhelmed and/or having periods in life as described above, the message Isaiah speaks can bring us assurance and hope. Our God declares that being our help in these situations is God’s intention. By trusting in this promise and turning to God, we can endure because we know God is present to provide us strength. We also know that the situation is not permanent because our helper is offering a time when we no longer have anything to fear. Turn to and trust God because God has promised to be our help, strength and hope of a different future.

The Potter

Read Isaiah 64:8

Take a moment to look at this artwork created by Nicole Smith. As I gazed at this oil painting, the verse from Isaiah came into my mind. This verse acknowledges that God is the one who has created each of us. God’s hands have been on us and our lives since the day we were conceived. It is important to remember that God has not completed the work of molding us. Each day the molding and shaping of us continues and God’s hands remain on us.

We are not perfected pieces YET. There are times when we cave in on a side and need to be reshaped. We can collapse into a lump because of life’s pressures or our weaknesses. God does not give up on us when we appear to be ruined but gently works with us to begin our re-creation. When the world sees us as a useless lump of clay, God sees the masterpiece which we can become.

“You are the potter. I am the clay. Mold me and make me. This is what I pray.” – Change My Heart, Oh God – Eddie Espinosa

Eden Quest

Read Isaiah 11:6-9

Throughout human history, humans have been on a quest for the idyllic way of life. This quest has led us on a search for Nirvana, Shangri la, Eden and many other “paradises” with different names throughout history. There is a vision of a place where all creatures, including humans, live in harmony. The search for a place where there is an ample supply of everything which a person could possibly need. This place is void of strife and grueling labor. As much effort and time has been dedicated to this quest, the claiming of such a place remains elusive from a physical and spiritual standpoint in this temporal world.

In the vision which Isaiah relates, we receive a glimpse of the place which has driven humans on the quest. Isaiah describes a mountain where creatures interact in a harmonious way. The vulnerable do not suffer at the hands of the stronger and/or more lethal. This vision harkens us back to the time before humanity attempted to be in full control. We see how God intended all of creation to exist. This passage also provides assurance that this state of existence will occur again at some point.

Humans, often unknowingly, always strive for what is part of God’s plan. We search for purpose because God intends all to have purpose in the world. We search for a place to belong because God created us to be interwoven into the fabric of creation. Seeking love is our need to experience the love in which we were created by the love we know as God. Living in harmony without strife and labor is how God intended us to experience life so we search for the place where this may be our reality. God promises us that this reality exists where God is and so we strive to be in the full presence of God.

May your quest lead you to find God.

Good News

Read Isaiah 61:1-3

Think about a time when you have been chosen to deliver good news to someone else. The occasion may be the birth of a baby, the engagement of a couple, or the return of someone who has been away for an extended period of time. In my own life I have had the pleasure of delivering such good news many times. Having this opportunity creates excitement and high levels of joyful feelings. These experiences are definitely more enjoyable than being the bearer of bad news.

Isaiah, and all the other prophets of God, were most frequently delivering messages filled with bad news. The passage for today is one of the exceptions to the trend. Isaiah declares that he has been chosen to share some good news with the people, especially the poor, broken hearted, captive, imprisoned and mourners. The news he has to deliver is that their fortunes are changing. No longer are they to suffer and be made low but now they are going to be as mighty as great oaks on full display for the Lord.

As followers of Christ, we have the opportunity to be ones to proclaim good news as well. Each of us have experienced times when God has lifted us from troublesome situations. We have had times when we have been low and have suffered at the hands of others. The Lord provided healing and restoration from these experiences, sometimes through the work and words of others. Sharing these experiences with individuals makes us like those great oaks of which Isaiah speaks. Our anointment to bear good news is found in the words of Jesus, “Therefore go…” (Matthew 28:19). We are to share the news that the Lord has changed our situation in life and will do the same for them at the right point.